I write for fun and I write to entertain myself. I’m so lucky that the internet allows me to share with a small (but loyal) audience, since getting published these days is next to impossible. I write mostly short stories when I am not blogging. They are fictional, but they are certainly based on my own life experiences; some very closely and others not so much. Here is one I wrote about dealing with the birth of my twins. Although they came along at the perfect time in my life, motherhood was still a huge personal challenge; maybe the first time I thought I had overstepped my bounds and was involved in something I was never meant to do. I was 26, pregnant and finishing a Master’s Degree (my due date was also my walking date), published for the first time and in my seventh year of teaching. We had been married for eight years. The pregnancy was a bit tough- two babies growing in my body was draining and it is only because I was in amazing shape (I had been a body building fanatic for the five years prior) that I was able to deal. The twins were born almost five weeks prematurely; although they weighed a healthy five pounds each, they still needed to be nursed every hour around the clock. Because they did not hold up their heads enough to nurse together for almost two months, I wound up nursing one, nursing the other and sleeping one hour. I will only say that sleep deprivation at this level is an ugly thing. Here is the story:
If one more person makes one more comment, I’ll scream. The young woman pushed the twin baby stroller through the grocery store with a hassled, hurried look. She was feeling exhausted and pissy, as only a new mother can, and she hoped she was putting out a “Do Not Disturb” vibe. As she reached out to grab a box of pasta, an elderly lady stopped in front of the stroller, bent over and began cooing at the four-week-old infants.
“So adorable! How old are they? Boys or girls or one of each? Are they good babies? You are a lucky young lady!” As the elderly woman glanced up, the young mother tried quickly to put on a more social face. She did have manners after all, but her patience was thin. “Yes they are wonderful, thank you, girls, four weeks old,” she responded in a practiced manner. The older woman began a conversation, but the young mother cut her off with a barely-polite “excuse me, please, but it’s almost their naptime,” and she slid the stroller around and past as the elderly woman said, “Good luck with them, dear.”
Something in the woman’s voice hit a raw nerve. Now hot tears came to her eyes and she blinked them away hard. None of this was in the baby books. She was the first of her friends to have babies so they were not much help. All she really wanted was a strong, dark cup of coffee and some quiet time. But as she was still nursing the twins, there was neither coffee nor quiet time in her future.
She answered the next several comments (“You barely look old enough to have babies.” “Awww, I always wanted twins!” “God bless you and the children.”) with mumbled thanks and un-uttered responses (“I’m 26 but I feel 70”; “You can have them-I don’t really mean that”; “Thank you, I can use all the help I can get.”) It was with relief that she realized she was done shopping, and she pushed the now-bulging stroller toward the checkout counter.
She had almost made it when a middle-aged couple stepped right in front of the stroller. She stopped abruptly to avoid ramming into them. They both bent over and made the usual noises.
Do babies really respond to that anyway?, she thought. That wasn’t in the books either. She was about to make a rude, fed-up comment when the woman-half of the couple looked up and into her face. “This brings back such memories,” she said. The young mother swallowed her original response and mustered the absolutely bottom-of-the-barrel socially-acceptable interaction she had left and responded, “Oh, you had twins too?” immediately mentally kicking herself for asking an actual question that might require conversation.
“Actually,” the man-half of the couple smiled warmly at her and took up the conversation as if he and his wife were interchangeable, “we had three sets of twins. In six years.”
The young mother could not have been more stunned if they had said they had octuplets. All she could do was repeat, “THREE sets of twins in SIX years?” Then, “and you are still happily married? To each other?? How did you do it? Oh my God, I can’t imagine that. I’m just exhausted all the time with just these two. How old are they now? Did you nurse all those babies? How many boys and how many girls? How did you survive that?”
“It gets easier after a while,” the woman answered. “Hang in there, honey,” said the man, as his wife slid her arm through his and they walked away.
All the young mother could do for a moment was stare after them, paralyzed. Her harried, crazy days and nights flashed through her mind, and she finally thought to herself: if they can do that, then I certainly can do this. Her knitted brow relaxed, and the stress lines around her eyes and mouth smoothed out a bit. Then she smiled- a genuine, actual, warm smile for the first time in forever; and pushed the stroller into an open check-out lane, and began to unload her groceries onto the moving conveyor belt.